I was between the ages of 7 and 9 when my parents were divorcing. I remember this time as a mixture of freedom and neglect. We seemed to have very little parental guidance, control or presence in our lives.
While this meant that we could pretty much do whatever we wanted, it also meant we often didn’t have anyone taking care of us. While all of this was happening I rarely saw my eldest brother, who was 8(ish) years older than me at the time, while my other brother (4ish years older) seemed to become my entire universe.
He and I used to ‘skip’ school together, steal toys and food from stores, break into places, go swimming, eat candy (we had bought with money we stole from our Mom) and bike around town getting into trouble wherever we could.
I’m not sure I felt this at the time, but when I think back on those days I always think of them as sort of ‘the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’ chapter of my life.
I remember the first summer after ‘the split’ being a hot one. My brother and I spent a lot of time at the lake and along the river. There were always houseboats docked along the river that were of great interest and intrigue to us. We would lay around on a nearby dock observing them until we sure it was safe, and then we would sneak on.
These weren’t expensive, fancy houseboats. They were the kind you could picture floating down the Mississippi on a humid summer day. We would imagine we were setting sail to wonderful, exotic places. And pretend that we were far away from our troubles.
We were caught twice. The first man who caught us was angry and unforgiving. He treated us like we were annoying, little, creatures (which, I guess we were) and kicked us off his boat.
The second man was much more patient. He expressed to us, in a kind but firm manner, that we were in the wrong and then showed us around his boat before kicking us off and making sure we understood that we were never to do it again.
On one of our more particular naughty days, we ‘skipped’ school and rode around town on our bikes taking air pressure caps off vehicle tires. I have no idea why we thought of doing this. We collected, what seemed like, hundreds of those little, black caps.
When our Mother found the stash she was, understandably, livid. She made us bike around and return them all. Which, of course, we didn’t do. We disposed of the ‘evidence’ and went swimming.
I remember these days as also being the days of ‘the empty fridge’. I have vivid memories of coming home from school at the end of the day, so hungry, opening the fridge and literally seeing nothing but a bottle of vodka.
But, we usually had a loaf of bread and, for some reason, a bag of icing sugar. This is when we created the first ever ‘microwave bread donut’!
Microwave Bread Donut
Recipe: slice of white bread, bag of icing sugar
Cooking Method: microwave slice of bread for 10 seconds, or until hot.
Roll hot slice of bread into a ball.
Place the ball of bread in icing sugar bag. Seal bag and shake well.
Open bag, consume ‘donut’.
This year is also the first time I remember my eldest brother, who is now an Executive Chef, cooking.
He would make us Kraft Dinner and pancakes and try to show us how to do things and get us to help. We were not very easy to manage. We would try to get the pancakes to stick to the ceiling, like we’d seen in cartoons and fling forkfuls of KD around like we were having an “Ernest Goes to Camp” kind of food fight.
I’m amazed after his experiences with his first, unruly, sous chefs that he still went ahead and pursued his cooking career. I’m pretty sure we helped him first discover his passion for the kitchen. Though, he’d probably say otherwise.
This time of life is full of fun stories, mischief, loss of innocence, pain, sadness, love and complexity.
This is only the beginning of the unraveling of my story.